To be a holy habitation for God is a little daunting when we know how short we fall. Yet He is our guide, ever present and ever gracious, giving us His power to yield our lives.
You in Your mercy have led forth The people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength To Your holy habitation. (Exodus 15:13)
I’ve read this particular verse a gazillion times, always with a sense of assurance and thanksgiving. It provides a beautiful picture of a loving God guiding His people to a place of safety, intimacy and worship. But as I read it once again today, I was struck by how radically different the implications are under the new covenant. It’s true that God’s Word never changes and is eternally relevant. He guides us today just as He did the Israelites. Our destination also hasn’t changed. It’s still towards His holy habitation – that place of worship and intimate relationship in His presence. But the practical outworking of it has been radically changed by the cross. God has, in a sense, ‘moved house’ and it’s both startling and exciting to realise that He now guides us to ourselves rather than some outward and separate tabernacle or place of meeting.
We are God’s holy habitation.
Our God has relocated from God with us to God in us. We are a holy nation, consecrated and set apart for Him. The Bible tells us that we are temple of the Lord. We may have our churches and buildings where we gather as His body for corporate worship, but the real ‘meeting place’ is within each one of us. It’s personal, it’s intimate, and it’s ongoing. He has no intention of moving out any time soon. This is the moment where I found myself thinking long and hard about the incredible privilege of having the great I AM living within me. It also set me to thinking about the long list of intricate and minute details He provided for the building of both the tabernacle and the temple. The building had to be perfect to house a holy God.
There’s no doubt that He’s taken a step down in the world, choosing to live in us. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and we all have a long way to go. Yet His love, grace, and mercy are so great that He’s moved in anyway so that He can continue to guide us from within. He is determined that there be no more separation. This is the proof that absolutely nothing can separate us from His love. We are the meeting place of intimate worship, and though He respects our ‘space,’ He remains with us and is ready to meet us when we turn our focus to Him. Sadly, we’re often too distracted to realise or remember that He is literally right there, waiting to meet with us. But for all our sinfulness and neglect, He chooses to remain in His holy habitation.
Guided towards God’s holy habitation.
This is the part where the real grace shines through. He knows we’re far from holy – the kind of holiness He deserves. We’re told we must be holy, just as God is holy, but it’s totally impossible in our own strength. That’s why He continues to guide us by His strength. That’s why He’s essentially guiding us towards ourselves. It helps to take a step back here and remember that the person we became is not the person God created. Self, the world, and the devil have all had a hand in bending us out of shape. But God created us perfectly, a holy habitation fit for Him to inhabit. This is the ‘self’ that He now guides us towards. It’s a long, slow journey, and must try His patience beyond imagining. But little by little, step by step, He lends us His strength to reach our final destination.
In the meantime, His grace and mercy provided the cross and His Son to make it possible for Him to ‘move in’ before His holy habitation was ready. He’s right there, directing the renovations on site rather than watching from a distance. He’s intimately involved with every detail. We aren’t given a list and told to get on with it by a certain date. Instead, we’re empowered by His strength as He guides us. Of course, the ‘down side’ of this is that He misses nothing. It’s easy, somehow, to know that He sees all but kind of avoid it while we imagine Him ‘over there’ instead of inside us. But the God on the spot is real and He sees every detail we would rather overlook. The ‘up side,’ however, is He doesn’t expect us to do it alone or in our own strength.
Yielding ourselves as a holy habitation.
I’m always filled with thanksgiving when I remember that God looks always at the condition of the heart. That’s a wonderful measure of grace which brings faith and assurance. Every believer takes the first step when they fling open the door at salvation. While it would be so much easier if He would simply move in and take sovereign command, He always respects our choice to yield or hold back. Moving towards the holy habitation God desires is a matter of choice. We either yield or we don’t. Practically, we tend to yield in bits, allowing Him into some areas but not into others. It’s a journey and thankfully, He’s willing to remain and guide us along, even when we resist and surely try His patience. Even when He owns us entirely and three times over, He respects the free will He has given us.
The little word ‘strength’ in today’s verse is telling. It doesn’t simply refer to physical strength or strength of character. It relates also to His power – that same supernatural power that created the universe and everything in it, and which sustains it by His will. The God who has chosen us to be His holy habitation is the great I AM. We aren’t called upon to yield ourselves to anyone less than the almighty God Himself. The beauty of it lies in the very real truth that when we do yield, we don’t lose anything. In fact, we move a little closer to real ‘self’ He originally intended us to be. We lay down our lives only to take up a life in the supernatural resurrection power of God. That is true fulfilment of our created purpose. It’s the joy of discovering who we truly are in God.
Living as a holy habitation.
The important thing is that we should set our eyes on the destination. If we fix our hearts on becoming the holy habitation of our holy God, He continues to lead us there with His strength. We’ll fall down along the way, but He is there to pick us up, dust us off, and encourage us to move onward. We will ultimately become what we desire, and if what we desire is His will, He will see that we make it. If there was even the slightest chance we could do it on our own, Jesus would never have gone to the cross. Through His Son, God brought His supernatural presence into our natural condition. Be encouraged. He is the author and perfecter of our faith. He leaves nothing incomplete. Our God is in us for the long haul, until ‘It is finished’ is manifest in full in our lives.
Gracious Father, thank You that Your love and grace remain within us even though we are not worthy to be Your dwelling place. Thank You for Your guidance and Your strength, and for the assurance that You will remain with us until the work is done. Help us to yield and to desire the holiness You deserve, willingly laying down the things You reveal so that we may live surrendered to Your supernatural power and purposes in our lives.